UK companies top the list in commitment to UN sustainability goals

UK companies have the strongest commitment to aligning their operations to UN’s development goals, according to a new study published by global banking and financial institution HSBC.

According to the study, 75% of British businesses feel they have an active role to play and of the 9,100 global companies analysed in the report, 1,000 are UK-based.

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Just 58% of Spanish businesses surveyed shared similar sentiments, with identical results from France and the Netherlands. Just 55% of Swedish firms and even fewer in Ireland (53%) feel they have a role to play in aligning to the objectives for decarbonisation and climate action.

Approximately 38% of the UK participants felt their role in helping deliver the SDGs is “significant”, compared to 23% of Irish companies, 17% of Spanish and Dutch firms, and just 16% of French and Swedish businesses.

The survey also looked into the motivations for adopting stronger principles around decarbonisation, and the results indicated a drive to improve operational efficiency (26%), meet regulatory standards (26%) and gain a reputational advantage (24%).

The most significant sources of external pressure are competitors (32%), government (30%), regulators (30%), whilst and employees or future employees (28%) also helped drive change.

Just under one-third (31%) of businesses stated that investment in technology, innovation and infrastructure top the priority list, followed by plans to reduce waste generation (29%) and encourage workplace diversity and equality (27%).

As expected, the biggest perceived challenge to adopting more sustainable practices was revealed extra finance, with (28%) saying frustration caused by inconsistent measurement and reporting frameworks is hampering commitment.

Rob King, Head of Sustainable Finance at HSBC UK said: “It’s encouraging to see that UK businesses are showing leadership to become more sustainable and make a long term difference to their customers, employees and the local communities in which they operate.

“We are increasingly seeing businesses incorporate sustainability goals into their strategic objectives and business models as they strive to make a change in the future.”

He added businesses are calling for support and clear guidance on which reporting frameworks to prioritise to deliver on their ambitions and “bridge the gap between sentiment and reality”.